Episode 113: The Myth of Martyrdom (Part 1) with guest Candida Moss

myth_of_persecutionJesus famously told his disciples “take up your cross and follow me” and the church has proudly circulated stories of Christian martyrs ever since. Stories of believers who refused to renounce their faith in the face of persecution inspire some to great acts of heroism but can also promote a spirit of victimization. In her new book “The Myth of Christian Persecution” Candida Moss argues that the martyrdom stories from the first centuries of the Christian church have been exaggerated, and in many cases completely fabricated. Contrary to popular accounts of church history there never was any widespread systematic persecution of Christians in the first centuries of the common era. Join us as we discuss her fascinating book.
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Episode 111: Goodbye Joey Ratz

joey_ratzCelebrate the end of Pope Benedict XVI’s short reign with a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of the polemical pontiff’s career. We’ll discuss all the big questions you probably don’t care about: will Benedict still be ‘infallible’? What were the real reasons for his resignation? What will he do now? Who will be the next pope? Also, a brief history of Papal resignations before Benedict and we turn to Stephen Greenblatt’s book “The Swerve” for a surprising connection between a former Pope and the rebirth of humanism in the western world.

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Episode 109: The Biology of Religious Patriarchy

womenWhy are religious moralists so preoccupied with sex? Attitudes on sexuality are far more predictive of religiosity than attitudes on charity, social justice or any other measure. Religious scriptures abound with rules and restrictions aimed at controlling women’s sexuality in particular. Is the current religious obsession with sex just an unfortunate result of religion’s male-dominated history or are there deeper forces at work? On this episode the doubtcasters review recent studies which illuminate possible procreative strategies underpinning religious patriarchy. Also on this episode: the supreme court hears gay marriage cases, the Pope Who Stole Christmas and fan favorite Ed Brayton joins us to discuss his new book about the violence and intimidation many secular activists face when defending the separation of church and state.

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Episode 108: Post-Election Withdrawal

The doubtcasters collectively work through their post-election withdrawal symptoms by examining how demographic shifts are changing the American political landscape with special focus on how religious vs. secular polling locations influence voting. Also for this week’s counterapologetics Justin Schieber presents a presuppositionalist argument for atheism developed by Stephen Maitzen.

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Episode 107: Are We Born Depraved?

The discovery that children have a natural inclination to believe in invisible, immortal, super-knowing agents has some religious apologists boasting that science has found the sensus divinitatis. Despite possessing this inner sense of the divine, John Calvin declared children to be morally corrupt by nature.  This doctrine of total depravity has served as a justification for authoritarian child-rearing practices aimed at instilling obedience in strong-willed children.  But a close look at the data suggests our theistic inclinations are byproducts of our cognitive development and not a special God-given faculty. Likewise, studies on the moral development of children reveal the foundations for empathy are present even at a young age. Authoritarian parenting may hinder that development and contribute to a variety of social ills.

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Episode 106: Moonie Madness

The Unification Church was virtually unknown in America until the 1970’s when concerned parents, anti-cult groups and members of congress raised alarm about the powerful “brainwashing” techniques used by “moonies” to lure new converts into their dangerous cult.  Now that the self-proclaimed “messiah” Sun Myung Moon has died a group of sociologists are defending the Unification Church. While their beliefs and practices may strike most as odd they are hardly the predatory cult some have made them out to be (these sociologists claim). In particular, researchers of new religious movements object to the pseudoscientific notion of “brainwashing”–insisting that what compels people to join groups like the Unification Church amounts to nothing more than ordinary forces of group psychology at play in any religion. Anti-cult groups have fired back accusing these researchers of engaging in apologetics and secretly accepting financial kick-backs from the same groups they defend. What is a cult and how is it different (if at all) from a religion? Is there any scientific support for the concept of brainwashing? We will attempt to answer these questions and more. Also on this episode: violence across the Muslim world, blasphemy laws backfire in Pakistan, and Mark Regnerus’ research on homosexual parenting is dissected for this weeks “God Thinks Like You”

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Episode 105: Are We Born to Believe?

Some atheists have argued that children are naturally non-believers. Were it not for indoctrination at the hands of parents and clergy children would never pick up supernatural beliefs on their own and religion would wither and die. But a growing body of research in developmental psychology suggests just the opposite. Children have a natural inclination to believe in invisible, immortal, super-knowing agents who are responsible for design in the natural world. For this first part in a series on the evolved origins of religious belief the doubtcasters review two books  (Justin Barrett’s Born Believers and Jesse Berring’s the Belief Instinct) which make the case that religious belief is not only natural–it is almost inevitable.

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RD Extra: Polyatheism – Modern Lessons From Ancient Myths

This RD Extra features a lecture by David Fletcher, delivered to CFI Michigan on July 11th 2012

Lecture Description:

There are many lessons we can learn from the myths of ancient and modern cultures, ranging from the profound to the absurd. In this presentation we will explore the mythologies of various cultures around the world and get to know some of the many gods and goddesses worth not believing in.

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Episode 104: Religious Experience (with guest Tanya Luhrmann)

For many religious believers the most compelling evidence for theism is their own personal experience of God’s presence. Christians in the rapidly growing charismatic “renewalist” movement do not just talk to God, they claim to actually hear God talking back. Are these powerful religious experiences evidence that God really exists or are they the result of mental illness?  Anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, author of When God Talks Back, offers another explanation: such experiences arise naturally when spiritual communities learn to train and enhance their natural capacity for imagination.  She joins us on the show to talk about what she observed while studying members of the renewalist Vineyard Church. Also in this episode: just how much government revenue is lost due to religious tax exemptions and direct subsides to churches? The answer will shock you.  Plus, a counter-apologetics on Richard Swinburne’s argument from religious experience and a new pollyatheism.

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Episode 104 Links:

Council For Secular Humanism Report on Religious Tax exemption

Churches challenge IRS/IRS does nothing

Episode 103: Snakes and T.U.L.I.P.s

Members of the Southern Baptist Convention are denouncing the aggressive “new Calvinists” who have infiltrated their ranks and insist on pushing the belief that God predestined some people to hell long before the first human sinned. You know what that means? IT’s TULIP TIME! Join us as the doubtcasters give a skeptical overview of the five points of Calvinism (also known as T.U.L.I.P.) and explain why the SBC objects to these doctrines. But new Calvinists are not the only ones making news in the American south… hear from gay hating preachers, snake-handlers, and mega-church cult leaders for the first (and possibly the last) installment of a new segment…WHEN SOUTHERN PREACHERS ATTACK! Also, more on the link between atheism and autism, plus William Lane Craig grapples with determinism for this weeks counter-apologetics segment.

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Episode 103 Links

Vatican leaks

Pope’s butler charged

Pastor encourages abuse of gay children

famous” Snake Handler dies from bite

Serpent handlers should be lauded for their faith…seriously?

if Jim Jones ran a prosperity gospel mega-church

Southern Baptists divided over Calvinism

Scriptures for and against “the Perseverance of the Saints”